Another loss, but the vibes were totally different from last week. Charlton Park were within a few inches of a draw at Crowborough on Saturday, Connor McDonald’s late conversion attempt falling just under the bar and an earlier attempt hitting a post, but this was overall a fabulous game of grassroots rugby played properly between two clubs and with a referee who showed each other respect. The large crowd, with many Park supporters amongst it, were agreed about the exciting nature of the game if not over the final result.
From Park’s point-of-view this was another step up in their defensive organisation and in their refusal to give in when the home side bundled over for a try under the posts to take the lead with under 10 minutes left. They had spent the previous 10 minutes carrying out an heroic Rorkes Drift defence until the ball squirted out of a scrum and they could have just caved in but they then camped themselves in the Crowborough left corner, were themselves kept out by an equally fierce defence until an enormous scrum pushed the home side off their own ball and someone, probably Ally McQuitty, scored. After McDonald’s near miss Park then kept the ball for the remaining minutes and Reion Raybe was within inches of breaking away.
Charlton Park were buoyed by the return of two players who turned in man-of-the-match performances; Alfie Lisle had not played for them for several years, Felix Marot for several weeks, but both showed a positive zest for the fray, with Lisle running on to the ball and making his tackles and Marot breaking through on several occasions. In essence, though, everyone stepped up – a huge gesture of support for Terry Read and Lee Amzaleg in a week where injuries, two late cases of Covid and army manoeuvres removed at least a dozen possible players.
This was a game where the fierce defence from both teams forced a string of unforced errors. After a penalty put the home side ahead a big scrum enabled Luke Boyns to dot down. Crowborough exploited space on the inside to further take the lead but McDonald’s assured penalty levelled it at half-time. A break from Marot led to a walk-in try for Jake Conway but two home tries made it 20-13, which turned out not to be quite enough.
This was amateur, grassroots rugby at its best. Anyone reading an article in The Guardian this week, or another in today’s rugby paper, will know that the future of such matches is at risk. Social rugby has collapsed and the ladder up for players at this level is in danger of being abused by the practice of clubs to which they would normally progress offering money and, worst of all, signing young players up to contracts which essentially deny their right to play the game they love where and when they want. We await the RFU taking some action to protect the base of their pyramid and the source of much of their Twickenham ticket revenue; just outlaw contracts for all clubs below level 3.
Next week we welcome Thanet Wanderers to Broad Walk.